For this teacher feature, I’m excited to introduce you all to Demetre Souliotes!
Demetre is a long time West Coast Swing dancer but has only been teaching with us at ATOMIC for about a year. Since joining our teaching team, Demetre has brought a lot of good energy to the studio. Not only is he an amazing teacher (I can personally attest to that as I’ve been taking private lessons from him) but he’s also a really positive person who treats everyone like a friend. It’s hard to be around him and not be entranced by his charm!
Because he’s only around on Thursdays & Fridays, I thought that a lot of you might not know Demetre and so I asked him some questions in order to get to know him better.
How long have you been dancing for?
I started dancing pretty young but in Hip Hop and Break Dancing. By the time I was 13, I was competing, battling, and winning competitions in three different styles of Hip-Hop. I’ve been dancing West Coast Swing though for the past 17 years, and have been teaching West Coast Swing for 15 years.
Was there a specific moment when you decided to switch from doing Hip-Hop and Break Dancing to being a West Coast Swing dancer?
It all started back in the mid 90s when this fresh-faced big nosed little lad went to the US Open with his dad… Okay, well that’s sort of how it started. My parents had gotten divorced and so my dad started dancing as a way to meet people. While he was at a country bar, he saw people doing West Coast Swing and he heard that some of the music was hip-hop. He told me about it and said that he thought I would like it, but I really had no interest. He said there was a big event in Anaheim called the U.S. Open and that if I went with him and didn’t like it, that we could go to Disneyland instead…so I went. When I was there I saw people dancing to the music I liked and thought ‘I can dance better than them…I can do this.”
So then how did you start?
My dad initially. He’s who taught me my first dance steps. Then, instead of college, I moved in with my dad, got a job, and learned how to dance. My dad made me learn how to follow first so that he could work on his own dancing. We danced together in our living room for 3 months straight. Within 6 months, I won every contest that I entered. Within a year, I was at the top end of the advanced dancers (there wasn’t an all-star level back then). A year after that, one of the top champions at the time, Beata Howe, asked me to be her partner and we began travelling the United States full time, performing, teaching, and competing. In the last 15 years I have taught all over the world.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Dancing is the thing I am most passionate about and so teaching allows me to give people that same passion. I love being able to adapt to my students and to figure out how they learn, whether auditory, visually, or kinesthetically. By teaching dance, I am able to pass on to people something they can carry with them the rest of their lives. I think back so fondly of all the teachers I have had and to think that people may view me that same way, is really gratifying.
Do you think there is anything missing in the West Coast Swing Community or something that you would like to see more of?
I would love to see more people taking classes, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a teacher. I’d also like to see more leveled workshops, very specific workshops that are true to the level they advertise, more of a structural education system. I also really admire the Lindy Hop community and their concept of exchanges where they open up their homes and communities, I would love to see some of that happen within WCS. There are also a lot of people from varying generations so I would love to see less of a gap and more generational cohesion. I also think that there should be more scholarships for young dancers so that they may have the chance to travel and learn.
What are your goals for the future?
Right now I am working with a new dance partner and we are preparing for the US Open at the end of November. I’m looking forward to traveling with her as we perform and compete. Ultimately I would love to be in charge of a couple of dance conventions to promote WCS and to be able to organize and promote WCS workshops all over the country. I’d like to teach as much as I can and then move on to judging and promoting.
Any final thoughts you want to share?
Overall I’m a big fan of all dancing but I am partial to street dancing, including Salsa and Tango, but I only teach West Coast. I’m also very happy to be at ATOMIC to be teaching among other champion dancers like Ben Morris, Malia San Nicolas, and Samantha Buckwalter.
There you have it folks! Demetre in a nutshell. Come join Demetre every Thursday for some West Coast Swing. If he’s not teaching or DJing, you can usually still find him having fun on the dance floor! If you’re interested in learning from Demetre, who is considered to be one of the most experienced high-end instructors here on the west coast, he teaches private lessons at ATOMIC on Thursdays and Fridays. The next time he will be teaching group classes will be on Thursday, October 9th for the advanced class and on Thursday, October 30th for the beginning and intermediate classes. Come join him for a dance or two!
Demetre & Kristen Humphrey (his current partner)- Champion Strictly Easter Swing 2014
Demetre & Victoria Henk- Halloween SwingThing Champions/All-Star Jack & Jill 2013
Demetre & Samantha Buckwalter (another ATOMIC instructor!) & Michael Kielbasa- Invitational 3-for-all Jack & Jill
Demetre & Beata Howe (his first dance partner!)- this was a special find just for all of you!